Wayne Woldt,James Robbins,Dharmendra Saraswat 2016-06-29 04:34:54
Special Series on Unmanned Aircraft, Part 3 Unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) are an emerging technology that presents an almost unlimited array of opportunities and applications in agriculture. Let your imagination fly, and bring your passion to this emerging technology. The growth of UAS technology will provide ample space for you to grow as a professional. The four articles presented in this final installment of the three-part Special Series on Unmanned Aircraft in agriculture convey different stories about the pursuit of opportunities in the emerging area of UAS. The four articles include: 1. “Yield Estimation: A Low-Hanging Fruit for Application of Small UAS” 2. “Small UAS in Agricultural Remote-Sensing Research at Texas A&M” 3. “Why Unmanned Aircraft for Agriculture?”. 4. “Aerial Imaging with Manned Aircraft for Precision Agriculture” These stories represent just a few of the dimensions that can be explored when combining aviation with robotics, big data, and agriculture. The first article—“Yield Estimation: A Low-Hanging Fruit for Application of Small UAS”—is a story about seizing an opportunity for innovation. In this case, there was a need for a sophisticated sensor pack that could take advantage of the complex crop views that unmanned aircraft can provide. By bringing innovation, ingenuity, and hard work to bear on the challenge, a highly sophisticated sensor pack has been developed. Research and continued refinement of the sensor pack are in progress by teams from the University of Florida and the University of Pennsylvania, leading to greater understanding of key elements of crop production and management. The second article—“Small UAS in Agricultural Remote-Sensing Research at Texas A&M”—is a different story about seizing an opportunity. This story shows that the Lone Star State has a vision for the potential of unmanned aircraft in agriculture and is pursuing that vision. Texas A&M started its research and development program just one year ago and already has five well positioned teams consisting of over 40 scientists and engineers. That’s impressive, and the lessons they’ve learned so far are instructive for all of us. The third article—“Why Unmanned Aircraft for Agriculture?”—is a story about entrepreneurship and identifying opportunities for commercialization in the ever-evolving world of unmanned aircraft. Working in partnership with research and development institutions, Black Swift Technologies LLC provides modular navigation and control systems for unmanned aircraft. This successful industry-academia collaboration has resulted in cutting-edge products that retain the “human in the loop” through easy-to-use software interfaces for the control of complex UAS and their payloads. The fourth article—“Aerial Imaging with Manned Aircraft for Precision Agriculture”—tells a story about connecting opportunities. This contribution from the USDA Agricultural Research Service at College Station, Texas, describes remote sensing of crops with an impressive variety of sensor systems—including color, infrared, multispectral, and hyperspectral imaging—often using combinations of consumer- grade equipment. This research uses manned aircraft as the sensor platform, and the article correctly notes that current aviation rules present challenges for commercial use of unmanned aircraft, while recognizing the great potential for unmanned aircraft in agriculture after the rules are relaxed. Finally, this three-part series on unmanned aircraft in agriculture wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the opportunities for education about unmanned aircraft in agriculture. A new eXtension Learning Network—entitled UAS in Agriculture—has been enabled by USDA Extension and has core leadership from the following Land Grant institutions: University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Purdue University, University of Arkansas, Oregon State University, and Utah State University. Four main objectives have been established for this eXtension Learning Network: • Build the capacity of Extension to engage in unmanned aircraft through leveraging of numerous research programs focused on agriculture. • Deliver research-based education programs on unmanned aircraft applications in agriculture to clients at multiple scales, including manufacturers, vendors, and end users. • Provide guidance to learners that helps them understand the regulations and requirements involved in deploying UAS legally and successfully. • Engage aviation regulators in the unique challenges of deploying UAS in agriculture. The eXtension Learning Network is developing as an adaptive learning system in which clients are able to engage according to their preferences and needs, and in which they can learn as well as contribute knowledge. The eXtension Learning Network consists of two main components: • The UAS in Agriculture Learning Center. • The UAS in Agriculture Learning Network. The Learning Center comprises the “people portion” of the Learning Network and includes the core leadership, along with the experts and clients who participate in the network on a regular basis by both pushing and pulling information. The Learning Network consists of the content portion of the eXtension initiative. Additional information on the UAS in Agriculture Learning Network can be found at www.learnUASag.org and on the associated social networking channels. If you would like to join and contribute to this Learning Network, please contact one of the authors for additional information. Join the journey, follow the flight path We hope this three-part series on unmanned aircraft in agriculture has given you an opportunity to reflect on how this new technology is taking agriculture to a whole new level. UAS provide exciting new opportunities for sustainability, for precision agriculture, and for helping us meet the grand challenge of feeding a hungry world. However, as with every opportunity, there will be challenges—are you prepared for them? Find out by joining ASABE’s new MS-60 Unmanned Aerial Systems committee, and help shape the future of unmanned aircraft in agriculture. ASABE member Wayne Woldt, P.E., Associate Professor, Department of Biological Systems Engineering and School of Natural Resources, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and Director, NU-AIRE Laboratory, Neb., USA, email@example.com. ASABE member James Robbins, Professor, University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service, University of Arkansas, Little Rock, USA, firstname.lastname@example.org. ASABE member Dharmendra Saraswat, Associate Professor, Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Ind., USA, email@example.com.
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